Marco contrived to paddle with his pole, so as to overtake the cap and recover it. Then he went to the shore and landed. He drew up the boat as high as he could, and went back to seek the other boys. He concluded that it was time to go home. His conscience now began to reproach him with the wrong which he had been doing. His promised pleasure had failed. His clothes were wet and uncomfortable. His mind was anxious and unhappy. With a heavy heart he began to retrace his steps, sure of detection when he reached home, and of punishment. He did not, however, dread the punishment so much as the just displeasure which his cousin would manifest, and the evidence of the pain which he knew his cousin would suffer, when he came to learn how his pupil had betrayed the confidence which had been reposed in him. Before he set out for home, however, he took off such of his clothes as were most wet, and wrung out the water as well as he could, and then put them on again.
When he drew near to the house, he expected to see his uncle still at work, but he was not there. Marco reconnoitered the place carefully, and then went into the office. His uncle was not in the office. He passed through into the study. He was afraid that Forester would be there, but, to his surprise and joy, he was not, and there was no sign that he had been there since the morning. Marco looked at the watch, and found that it was only about half-past eleven. So he took down a volume of the Encyclopedia and began to read. He read the article canoe, and he found some information about the bark canoes made by Indians, but nothing about log canoes. In about fifteen minutes he heard the office door open, and his cousin Forester came in. Forester walked into the study, but said nothing to Marco. Marco kept at his work, without speaking to his cousin. He began to hope that he might yet escape. His only fear now was lest his wet clothes should be observed. He put his hand down many times to his knees, to ascertain how fast they were drying. The clothes that he wore were of woolen, and of a dark color, so that they did not show the wet very distinctly, and, besides, the sun and the air were warm that day, and the clothes had dried fast. In a word, when twelve o’clock arrived and Marco put his books away, nobody would have observed that his clothes had been wet. He ran about in the open air until dinner-time, and though, when he went in to dinner, he felt oppressed with a sense of guilt and of self-condemnation, he was satisfied that no one suspected him. Marco thought that he had had a very lucky escape.
Though Marco’s first feeling was that of relief, to find that he had got back from his truancy without detection, he felt, after all, ill at ease. He kept out of sight till the dinner-bell rang, and then he was almost afraid to go in, for fear that, by some accident or other, his uncle might have noticed his absence, and might ask him something about it. He was usually much interested at dinner-time in talking with Forester about plans for the afternoon; but now he felt guilty and afraid, and he was disinclined to look his uncle or his cousin in the face, or to speak a word.